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Improved Outcomes for Students with Disabilities

This month’s Bright Spot comes from the Mamaroneck School District, which has been working with the RSE-TASC Bilingual Special Education Specialist, John Boniello, on building systems to improve the evaluation and identification of ELLs who are suspected of having disabilities.

What were students able to achieve?

Students are making great gains both academically and socially. Through teacher reports and progress monitoring data we see improved peer relationships, higher level academic functioning, and an improvement in the overall well-being of our bilingual and ELL students.   ELL students who might have been identified for Special Education in the past, are instead now receiving targeted instruction through general education systems.

What practices or systems made this possible?

The district has put multiple practices and systems in place. Elementary support staff team have worked hard to incorporate thorough assessments that better distinguish between students who have different learning needs and/or are still acquiring English, as opposed to students who may have a disability.  The district provides professional development on the most recent research in bilingualism and has recruited team members who have extensive training and experience with bilingual education and evaluations. They have enhanced communication practices to better connect with families and ensure families feel more connected to the school community.  In addition, the district has put systems in place to ensure instruction meets the needs of their ELLs.  Assessment data inform academic planning and are used to identify the type of support each student requires. If students are found ineligible for Special Education services, the team sets specific goals to help differentiate instruction for these students through building level supports. Each student’s progress is then monitored regularly and interventions are continually adjusted based on progress monitoring results.

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

Keeping current with the most recent research in bilingual education to inform practices and school systems can impact the lives of many students. With appropriate bilingual evaluations, targeted instruction and on-going progress monitoring, these students who might previously have been classified are thriving across subject areas in general education classrooms.

This month’s Bright Spot comes from staff in the preschool programs at the Association for Children with Down’s Syndrome, Alcott School, Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy and the Children’s School for Early Development who have been attending the Preschool PBIS/Pyramid Team training with RSE-TASC Preschool Behavior Specialist Erin Leskovic.

What were students able to achieve?

Across the programs, staff are reporting that their preschool students are showing increased readiness to work, mastery of classroom routines, social connectedness, and appropriate participation in activities like Circle Time and hallway transitions.

What practices or systems made this possible?

The PBIS/Pyramid teams have engaged their staff in identifying consistent behavioral expectations for students, and then teaching them explicitly to students.  One addition to this standard PBIS process  that really strengthens support for preschool-aged children is visual cues.  Teams reported that posting charts of expectations with visual representations using picture exchange symbols, photos and drawings, really helped students understand the behavior expected of them.  When they also positively acknowledged students who demonstrated the desired behaviors using those charts and visuals, students became much more aware of their behavior and much more likely to continue to engage in them.  Incidentally, some teams noted that the visuals helped the adults remember what to look for and acknowledge as well!

What can we learn from this Bright Spot?

The core elements of the PBIS framework for establishing behavioral expectations; i.e., naming and defining expectations; ensuring all adults in the setting know and reference them; teaching them to the students; and acknowledging those who demonstrate the behaviors; work for students of all ages and abilities. It is critical for teams to consider the developmentally appropriates means of communication and cuing.   One support that really benefits young children is the use of visual representation and cues!




Class/Grade Level*


What did your student(s) achieve?

What instructional practice or systemic change supported this student success?

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